Erasmus destinations: How to choose yours. Where to complete your TEFL internship?
Diary submitted by Lee R., Valencia
How language students should choose their TEFL course location based on the languages they are learning and why
Many English Modern Foreign Language students underestimate the diversity of the languages, accents or dialects that come out of a certain country. As I did my TEFL in Spain, I shall use Spain as the prime example for this section. When British students think of Spain, they assume that only Castilian Spanish is spoken throughout. However, as true as this may be to an extent, there are other different recognised languages, micro-cultures and various distinctions of accent and dialect throughout the land. As a student who is about to go on a year abroad, choosing the right setting is pivotal in terms of developing cultural awareness and the ability to speak the language. This section will discuss how language students should choose their TEFL course location in the context of Spain and why they should do this.
In the case of language comprehension in relation to location, it is often revealed by many that Spanish is already a rapid language to understand – which is still the case for me despite having lived abroad for the past 5 months. This is however the tip of the iceberg in relation to learning the language and moving abroad. There are many variations of accents and dialects in the country and this is contingent upon the region – which, in turn, can have a negative effect on L2 learning. In my opinion, the city should be chosen depending on the ability of the student in conjunction with the difficulty to comprehend the dialect. According to the website ‘UniSpain’ (http://blog.unispain.com/choosing-a-destination-in-spain/), the hardest accents to understand are in Andalucía (with the dropping of the letter ‘S’ at the end of words), Galicia and Euskera (due to their respective languages influencing an accent change). For students entering the year abroad at a CEFR level of B1 like myself, these may not be the best options. However, more advanced students may adapt easier. Furthermore, accents such as that of Andalucía may contribute to comprehension of accents in Latin America. Reflecting on my experience starting as a B1 student, I would recommend Valencia because the accent is moderately easy to understand.
Location for a TEFL placement is significant for language students because it essentially decides how much you are going to develop your language. Originally, I had decided to opt for Barcelona in Catalonia without thinking about the environment I would be in and without realising that Catalan is the dominant language of the city. According to the website ‘Tripsavvy’ (https://www.tripsavvy.com/where-in-spain-to-study-spanish-1643627), “[…] half of those living in Barcelona in Catalonia prefer to speak Catalan over (Castilian) Spanish. The proportion is even higher outside the city.” Due to this detail, I feel it would have been worse in the context of my language expansion in hindsight, had I not decided to go to Valencia. Valencia is a city where the people speak a clear Castilian Spanish but where the regional government primarily uses Valencian, for example; this would be for road signs, public transport and the general running of the city. This was a perfect combination of two languages and allowed me to progress with my Spanish language while yet experiencing both cultures simultaneously. This was also without having the cultural shock of an additional unknown language.
On the other hand, while maintaining the topic of culture, being a language student does not mean that the focus is solely on the language; it is also about becoming culturally aware. Despite the fact that Barcelona predominantly uses Catalan, living in such a city would benefit one’s cultural awareness, especially with the recent controversial referendum and the current division of opinion where it is possible to see both sides of the coin.
An additional feature to my experience in the school where I taught in Valencia was the availability of having Spanish classes. Finding a school that offers this is very beneficial due to the fact that opportunities to find groups of native speakers outside of the organisation are difficult to find from my experience. Doing the research for this is key.
To conclude this section, I believe that students should take their level into consideration before choosing a place but it is important to find a place where it is possible to experience both the values of the culture and a clear language. Lastly, one should aim to find a place where L2 practice is guaranteed.
- Choosing a destination in Spain to learn Spanish. Top 3 Destinations for Studying Spanish in Spain. (2013). Retrieved from the UniSpain website http://blog.unispain.com/choosing-a-destination-in-spain/
- Corrigan, D. (2015). Where should I learn Spanish in Spain?. Retrieved from https://www.tripsavvy.com/where-in-spain-to-study-spanish-1643627